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I love this topic, it is so fascinating! I also have multiple notebooks (surprise surprise!) I'm a total notebook freak but I have arrived at the perfect notebooks for me.

I have:

1x Moleskin lined notebook as my journal, mental health notes and personal development space.

1x Leuchturm dotted as my 'day book', filled with to do lists, notes from any online courses and business planning - a space for capturing and developing anything from business planning to household projects. Its an 'everything' book.

Notion: Here I capture all my ideas and planning for writing my Substack. I braindump inspiration and articles, and calendar plan everything out. I created my own template for this and its been gamechanging!

There is always room for improvement but so far I am enjoying these 3 rough buckets for capturing quite different things.

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Ohhh, so it's not just me that has a mixed relationship with notetaking / creative organisation. I also have a quite a few different notebooks / online tools that I use for art and writing too.

A game changer for me was creating a new google doc each year and called 'Free Writing [year]'. Whenever I need to draft something that doesn't 'fit' anywhere - I come to this doc and just jot it down. That fits quite well with your idea of 'think now, organise later' or as my mind interpreted it - 'create now, organise later'. It's been incredibly helpful!

My writing tends to be much more organised than my art though. What cool ways have you found for organising your art? I've found a lot of my art ideas get forgotten or half produced. Then I find it years later going 'oh, I should have kept going on that'. Would love to hear your thoughts :)

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Thank you for sharing this! So many parallels. :-)

I've also been trying to improve my system of note-taking. This past year I've been using Obsidian, and have been syncing my highlighted notes via Readwise Reader to my Obsidian notebook. I've also been using the Fleetwise note-taking app on my mobile devices, which also automatically syncs with my Obsidian vault.

Thanks also for mentioning Building a Second Brain. I've seen many Obsidian users mention this book, but your post pushed me over into buying it. Seeing that someone who is as focused on visual as well as text-based notes recommend the book was encouraging.

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This is a super timely post for me! I have been trying to think of a way to combine all my various notes and ideas, etc. etc. into one place, as I feel now I’m spread around on various digital platforms and random papers, and notebooks, etc. That I often forget what’s in them and where, and then the constant barrage of new information, things I want to read, things I want to try etc. That I just don’t know where to go! To that end, I’ve begun unsubscribing from many newsletters I used to read. It has become just too much information, and I don’t have time or brain power to keep it altogether and do what I want with it. This past weekend, I thought back to my office jobs, and I used to keep one notebook-- it was usually a steno book-- not sure why, exactly, but that’s what it was, and I would write everything down in that notebook. Meeting notes, to do lists, ideas I wanted to revisit, projects, etc. I would periodically go back through it, and pull things out to write on post-it notes to put on my desk of the things I wanted to take action on. It was a system that worked for me-- and then I had my outlook calendar, and various email folders that would organize my daily todos. I have tried to do this in my personal life, which is now my professional life as well, to some extent, but not with nearly as much focus or organization! The one thing I did decide to try, was to keep the one notebook thing-- so I had one place to look for stuff, but since reading your article and thinking more about it, I’m just not sure, it will actually work, because in my job, though I was sort of all over the place, everything was mostly connected or obviously related. That is not so in my new professional/personal life, that are one in the same. Though, really I’m trying to make them one and all connected and related! Because I am one person, so that is the connection between the disparate thoughts, ideas, interests, etc.! Okay, now I feel like I’m running on-- but as usual you gave me something to ponder about this notetaking/tracking system-- and one more newsletter to follow- as I subscribed to the Noted substack!

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Fun essay! Over the past decade I've tried a couple times to create a second brain, (though not having read the Forte's book). But I've always run into entropy two months after setting things up beautifully. Now that I'm in my mid forties, I've given up my career ambitions and just stopped trying though I still feel the allure!

I'm not a note-taker while reading...but I did a lot of highlighting while reviewing and revising drawings as an architect. One idea that might be useful is using different color coded highlighters. For example, I used yellow for backchecked items, green for completed items, and orange for items that needed further discussion. At a glance I can immediately gauge a drawing sheet and know what had been reviewed, corrected, and needed focus.

As for note books...I find that I have a proliferation of them in my life...8 in total (6 physical) : The catchall+morning journal at the WFH desk, another in the car, dinner table sketchbook, calligraphy notebook, hand drawing sketchbook, doodle zines, outlook work task manager, apple reminder personal task manager. I guess you could call my fifteen year old blog a ninth notebook!

My workflows goes from the physical catch-all's into the digital task managers and I never look back (aside from referencing the occasional blog post). Maybe a little more contemplation would be good, but once something gets hit with a green highlighter I never look back....

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Dec 8, 2023Liked by Carolyn Yoo

“I have been reading Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain to improve my current notetaking system…”

NOTETAKING! I have to SMH because good notes were my go-to during high school and college.

I was a scofflaw my entire life; cramming from good notes mere hours before a test was the method that got me through. I was a great test-taker! Did the notes get cataloged in my brain? Probably not; BUT the method developed my problem-solving skills and my ability to make decisions quickly and extemporize, while my colleagues were often paralyzed.

I was a hospital pharmacist, working 3rd shift, alone, caring for 200 inpatients across 4 hospitals and whoever presented at the Emergency Rooms; and yet I remained pretty calm and in control with the mantra, “There’s no cry’n and no dy’n on my shift; you’ll live to see another sunrise; sunset is another shift’s problem.”

I am firmly convinced that good note taking, taking risks and tempting fate at testing time molded me; I often told people that I was a problem-solver with a background in pharmacy.

“Not everything is important; In college I would highlight nearly everything in my textbooks and notes while studying for finals.”

That’s a very big key! A person must develop recognition. Kids in my classes in college would tape record the prof’s lectures and listen to them over and over. My gawd, college is a time for fun before the cold dip in the water of working for an unfit middle-manager; you can’t have time for fun if you are highlighting everything and listening to lectures repeatedly. Recognition is a skill developed over time and is inhibited when a person can’t recognize what’s important.

“Note taking alone might be considered a waste of time, but I see it as a diligence that can lead to better creative processing and making.”

Note taking is NOT a waste of time; neither is discerning highlighting. The creative process requires flexibility; ideas are all around a creative person every minute of the day. The key is to RELAX; you can’t capture every idea. But you will capture enough if you relax and just “be.”

Don’t make note taking into a ball and chain. Pressure that you put on yourself is the greatest inhibitor of creativity; you have a great foundation that you have built up over a lifetime and that should give you peace of mind. Trust yourself and enjoy all of it.

A lot of my advice and experience should be taken with a grain of salt since my gender is male; the Y chromosome makes us males lazy and always looking for shortcuts. The humans with two X chromosomes function differently, thank gawd! Success isn’t based on talent, it’s based on luck.

Sorry, I wrote way too much, as usual.

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Thank you for sharing. I would be curious to see how you use Notion as a creative. Maybe you can do a demo?

I use the Apple Notes app, Things app, a weekly paper to-do list using the main roles in my life based on Stephen Covey's ideas and a paper notebook. I am considering ( and have considered it for years and still did not purchase it!) using the Moleskin smart writing system so everything becomes digitized and can be saved.

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